Santa Barbara County is at risk from a cyber attack similar to those that are occurring around the nation, the 2019-20 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury reports.

Through its research, the Grand Jury learned Santa Barbara County, the eight incorporated cities, and the special districts within the county as a whole are woefully ill-prepared for a cyber attack. Such an attack could cripple their services and data systems. The cost to repair and recover these systems could be millions of dollars.

Cyber attacks are more widespread and dangerous than is generally recognized, even by people who should know. Cyber-security attacks include corruption or theft of data, denial of service, or complete destruction of critical data. Also, attacks could include subverting critical operations, such as water systems, electrical grids, and communication systems, and thus threaten public safety.

The attacks are certain to get worse. There is a never-ending evolutionary race between attack and defense. In this digital world, local government entities, even small ones, are not immune and their risks will grow as automated attack methods increase.

The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury is a basic part of government within the judicial branch; its existence is mandated by the California’s constitution. The Grand Jury acts independently, yet is under the general control of the Superior Court presiding judge to assure it acts in accordance with the state Penal Code.

— Pamela Olsen is the 2019-20 Grand Jury foreperson.